By Emily Keller, Ph.D., LPC, RPT

It is time to slow down and start living authentically

Many of us seem to be in a hurried race. It’s time to unbusy and take life soul and steady. It’s time to start living authentically.

Soul and steady refers to tuning in to your authentic self, knowing the pace that feels good to you, and crafting practices that tend to all of you. I adapted the phrase from the old adage, “Slow and steady wins the race.”  Many people are hurrying through life as if it were, indeed, a race. That has unintended consequences. One of which is that we aren’t living authentically.

Life is not a race.

  • Races have winners and losers.
  • Races have predetermined, set paths.
  • Races assess a small subset of qualities.

Races have winners and losers

Life, in contrast, is filled with winners. On the way to school one day, I listened as my  12-year-old son excitedly shared an insight.

“Think about it,” he said, making sure he had my attention, “the world is filled with winners. The parents of every person alive right now won at life. They survived. And their parents survived too.” He explained how the pattern goes back generations to the time when we had to hunt and forage for food. A scientist at heart, he added, “It even goes back way before humans. It goes all the way back through the evolution of every creature, to the very first life-form. Everyone alive today has come from this long line of survivors and winners.”

Steeped in a society that is greatly divided and judging others as either with us (right) or against us (wrong), I found his words refreshing. Realizing that we are all in this together, and all winners, is key to living authentically 

Races have predetermined, set paths

Rather than having predetermined and firmly set paths, we have a myriad array of options. We don’t have to follow any set path in life! Many of us don’t and that is OK. As long as we are working cooperatively with others and not harming them, we get a lot of freedom to living uniquely–discovering and adapting along the way.

One of my husband’s old (since way before we met) T-shirts has the words, “He who dies with the most toys is dead.” I find it succinctly to the point. We get to choose what we want and collect along the way. In the end, we leave behind the “toys.” We will, however, have our experiences. So why box in how we experience life by limiting ourselves to what we think we ought to do? Have fun, and make life playful along the way. Tuning in to experiences we enjoy is key to living authentically.

Races assess a small subset of qualities

Assessment is a topic near and dear to my heart. Out of four boys, three have gone through standardized testing. Two test very high. The other, well, quite the opposite. Every year since pre-K his teachers have had “the talk” with me. They’ve shared their concerns about his processing and attention skills. They’ve wondered out loud what support he needs. This is the same child, who would regularly walk out to the car shoeless and backpackless until third grade.

“He just seems to be someplace else,” I’ve heard again and again.

Around second grade, in addition to pointing out how he lacks executive functioning skills, the teachers also started pointing out his depth of thought. This is the same son I quoted above. Despite seeing himself as a immersed in a world of winners, he doesn’t “win” any of the typical academic races or assessments. He doesn’t have to.

He has his own unique qualities. This year, his teachers shared a vignette about a time  they led the class in exploring difficulties they had observed among the 7th-grade students. The students kept silent. They denied having any difficulties or problems. Then, this son of mine decided to open up. He shared one of his more vulnerable feelings and some of his social challenges. Gradually, others chimed in with their feelings and difficulties. The teachers said the entire class shifted. The self-guarding pre-teens moved toward vulnerability, and becoming a caring, connected community.

I don’t know any standard school assessments for self-awareness, emotional literacy, and courage. Yet, they are essential components to a healthy society filled with people living authentically.

The answer to today’s problems doesn’t lie in figuring out how to be more like other people (and better than them too). The answer lies in our discovering who we are and finding the courage and support to emerge–in our own unique ways.

When we are in touch with who we are, give ourselves permission to live life at our own pace, and to walk our path in our way, then, we are living authentically. We are living life soul and steady.

Life isn’t a race. Take the time to get in touch with your authentic self. Find your pace. Make your path

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If you are wanting help discovering who you are and/or permission to embrace and become your true self so that you will start living authentically, consider our Understanding Yourself and Others workshop followed by our Personal Growth Marathon.

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The Southeast Institute for Group and Family Therapy is committed to making the world a better place for all by connecting people to their worth, value, and dignity and the worth, value, and dignity in others.  We offer to our clients excellence in clinical therapy and psychotherapy training.

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